Sunday, November 06, 2011


This is what happened to him.

Dad had been telling me he was tired for a while. Sleepy all the time. I'm not sure when it started, but he didn't mention it until the end of summer. If you know my Dad, he wasn't one to complain. Ever. I still really didn't think much of it and neither did he. Everybody is tired, right? He still drove here to visit, came with us to New Orleans, and kept up with the kids. One Saturday, he was having a really bad day so we went over to his house and convinced him to come back home with us.

On the morning of Sunday, September 18, he asked to go to the hospital. That was HUGE. The ER doctor diagnosed him with leukemia with in a few hours. The consensus was due to his age, the big chemo at Tulane wasn't an option. Dad's best bet was comfort care, blood products, medicine, and to treat symptoms. He had a team of doctors - general practitioner, oncologist, cardiologist, nephrologist, along with nurses and physical therapists. During the hospital stay, Clint dumped the contents of his office into our dining room. He brought over all of Dad's things - bed, dresser, clothing, TV, computer, etc. Everything to make his new room feel like home.

After 8 days in the hospital, lots of tests, and medicine, Dad came home on September 25. "I almost feel good enough to go back to my house," he said. Of course he knew he couldn't. Our house was home now. I told him it was good to have him "back."

Home health began immediately and came almost daily. They checked his vitals and did blood work. He was well enough to attend Valerie's student of the month ceremony. The medicines had worked and although still tired, he didn't feel too bad over all. We knew it was a temporary fix, but it was better than nothing.

On October 6th, he woke me at 4:30am banging on the wall. He had experienced a violent shaking episode that lasted a few hours. His fever was 102. He was weak and just didn't seem right. A call to a home health nurse led us back to the E.R. at 5:30am. They tried to identify if he had an infection, but never did. His white count was 103,000 (normal range is 6,000-10,000.) More tests, more medicines, more blood products. Only this time, they did not work so well.

Dad was short of breath, very weak, and mildly disoriented at times. His vitals were good. His blood counts were in an ok range, yet it was a struggle to turn over in bed and even harder to take a few steps, even with a walker. On the 9th day upon the advice of his doctor, hospice visited us. The leukemia was winning. And we came home.

He spent most of his last week in his bedroom, coming out only to join us at the table for dinner once. I looked after him, asked over and over if I could get him anything. Mostly all he wanted was water. I cooked and tried to get him to eat. I sat with him on the edge of the bed every day and put my head on his shoulder while we talked about old times. We watched parts of old movies on AMC. We knew the end was coming, but I never dreamed it would be so soon. Even the hospice nurse had said he had "a while.".

We helped him to bed as usual on Friday night. I sat next to him on the bed and Clint stood in the doorway and we talked to him a bit about old times. Dad was having trouble sitting up, yet he wanted to sit and listen to us some more. Maybe he knew, but for some reason he didn't want to lay down. He didn't know why, "I just don't want to," he said. Saturday morning, he was unable to speak or open his eyes. Just 34 days after his initial diagnosis, just 8 days after he came home under hospice care, just before 9pm on October 22, he died in that bedroom.

I am so glad we took these pictures on the day that we did. It was the last time he left the house; the last time he went outside.

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  1. Oh Mel, I'm so sorry to hear this. I understand. I truly do. We went thru this with my mom two years ago. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    My husband's mother passed away 14 years ago in our home after a brief battle with cancer. We never regretted bringing her to our home. I know your dad was grateful.

  2. Oh, Melanie. I can't even type because I'm crying. :(

  3. I am so sorry, Melanie. Thinking of you all. Hugs!

  4. Only today I read this.
    Thank you for sharing so much love.
    Truly, I needed to read this today.
    May God bless your beautiful family, Mel.